The Struggle Is Part Of The Story

by Whitney on December 31, 2012

the-struggle-is-part-of-the-story-Whitney-English

I posted this quote on Instagram last week, and instantly there were comments. Someone emailed to ask if I would make it into a print. Several others emailed to simply connect, and a couple of emails actually turned into phone conversations. The image actually got the most likes of any image I’ve posted, ever. It seems that 2012, for quite a few people, has been a struggle.

Jobs have been lost, finances have been drained, marriages have been challenged. Sweet, precious, beautiful, wonderful souls have left this world all too soon. The tears too real, shoulders have shaken, hard, as they’ve been shed. Trust has been shattered, friendships lost, and road blocks have seemingly piled themselves as massive obstacles in mountainous form.

If you’re reflecting on 2012 as one of the worst years ever, then I’m talking to you. (If 2012 was a banner year for you, awesome! That rocks! Go you! But I’m not talking to you in this post, and the rest of it might not make much sense. That’s ok. Love you anyway.) From this point on, in this blog post, imagine that we’re sitting in a cozy room, with warm mugs in our hands, and you’ve just told me why 2012 was awful. Painful. Heart-wrenching.

I’m not going pretend to have been in your shoes. As tough as 2012 has been for me, the tears I have shed cannot be compared to the tears you have shed. To compare our pains would insult you. It would trivialize your experiences, and your trials, and I don’t want to do that. What I can do, not even having heard your story, is trust you: if you’re telling me it was awful, I’m so, so, so, sorry. If you need me to cry with you, I can. I am.

As we sit in that cozy room, Indian style on sofas, and sip our hot drinks, I want to tell you a couple of things.

As God’s children, He has placed us in a garden of undeserved privilege. That’s called grace. He has covered us with His love, in order to prevent the worst possible thing ever–eternal separation from him. That’s called mercy. So if we’re standing in grace, and shielded by mercy, with the faith and confidence that we’ll at least never have to be eternally separated from Him, then these trials and problems and struggles are temporary, even if they feel like they’re not.

You’ve got to find gratitude. Even though I’m not in your shoes, I can tell you that I know struggle and pain, albeit my version. And the way I look at my struggles is that I know they’re not the worst things ever, even though at times they seem personally unbearable. The worst pain ever was a father, who loved people so much, that he let the people take his baby boy and crucify him. As a parent, can you imagine? I cannot. That’s huge love. That’s the worst year ever. If you’re trying to find gratitude in the midst of pain, start there: at least be grateful that you don’t have to go through sacrificial relinquishment of your child, or brutal crucifiction.

Stop searching for happiness. Pain and struggle sometimes leave us aimless. We don’t know how to get away from it. So, we walk along, sometimes blindly, praying that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, which there WILL be–but fair warning, the light at the end of the tunnel is not happiness. The light at the end of the tunnel is relief, breathing space, restful nights. And the truth about life is that there are actually lots of tunnels and lots of lights. We’re going to keep going through them, and we have to recognize the light moments and live in them fully, because there will be another tunnel soon enough. That’s life. Happiness is in the journey, the gratitude in difficult things along the way, not the destination.

Have faith. Take heart. Choose courage. It WILL get better. Actually, I’m willing to bet you cold hard cash that it’ll get AWESOME. If you let it, the struggle can become one of the most beautiful parts of the story. Life has a funny way of making awesome, though, without giving you your way. God always knows what’s best for us. When we have the courage to have the faith that He’ll work it all out for good, in His time, the story can become magnificent. On days when it’s tough, just CHOOSE faith and courage.

Let it go. As humans, for whatever odd reason, we tend to revel in the pain. We lament the woes of our circumstances to whomever will listen. We hold grudges. We choose to remember and relive. Sometimes, we are our own worst enemy, rehashing situations that cannot be undone. My mother would tell me to quit beating a dead horse. Was it a problem? Yes. Did it stink? Sure. Is there grief? Yes, and a grieving process is allowed and encouraged, but you’ve still got to learn to let it go. If you hang onto it, it becomes bitterness. You’ve got to forgive: the person, the disease, the circumstances, the hand you’ve been dealt. Face the reality, and when the anger or hatred or negativity start to creep into your mind again, whisk the thoughts away with a simple choice: forgiveness. Say to yourself, “I’m choosing to forgive.”

Don’t be afraid to hope for better. We have a saying around our house: hope is not a good business strategy. However, the path leading away from pain and struggle is paved with hope. Most of us don’t consider the lack of hope an option; we have to have it to simply handle things. When faced with adversity, most of us realize that curling up in a ball in the corner and giving up just isn’t possible, even if we wanted it to be. In the thick of struggle, though, sometimes we find ourselves wondering if we’re wasting energy on hope. Hope isn’t a bad thing, just make sure you always pair it with action, even if that action is just praying and waiting. Simply standing around hoping things will get better isn’t going to make them so. As my mom would say, it might be time to hop to it. Pair hoping with hopping and you’ll find progress.

Romans 5:3-4 says, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance, and perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint.” (A compilation of versions). This brings me to my next point:

Hope does not disappoint. In fact, it seems that hope actually produces more faith, more confidence, more courage, more wisdom, more freedom. Faith produces more love. We have been watching a lot of VeggieTales around my house lately, and there is one little song where an asparagus-nun sings: I can love because God loved me.

I’m working on that one, friends. In the pain of struggle, it is hard to open your heart to loving unconditionally. As a human, I want to place conditions, expectations, on my love. I want to give without expecting anything in return, but I’m afraid of being burned. I want to love without fearing pain. That’s probably not realistic. But I can’t live without loving, so I choose to love. I have faith that all things will work for good. I pair hope with action to create progress. And I move forward. I will survive. You will, too.

Call me corny, but if you’re reading this, I love you. I’ve prayed that this might be an encouragement to you. Be encouraged: you are not alone in your struggle. And if you’re ever in Oklahoma City, maybe we can meet up for a chat over a couple of warm mugs.

xoxo,
Whitney

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenn Sprinkle December 31, 2012 at 6:27 pm

thank you….
can’t wait to work with you in 2013. love, jenn

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Beverly December 31, 2012 at 9:32 pm

Whitney,
Gratitude! It is so very important.
I love your words today and want to thank you for sending them out for us all to see.
Beverly

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Tobi December 31, 2012 at 11:34 pm

I’ll take a cup of coffee and a hug from you any day, Whitney. Thanks for having the courage to speak from your heart. I love it. It inspires.

Wishing you a 2013 full of peace, happiness and prosperity…and very few struggles. :)
xo, Tobi

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Elizabeth January 1, 2013 at 4:37 pm

As always, your talks from the heart are incredible. I really need to work on letting go of a grudge. My best friend and I had a falling out last year that left me very, very hurt. We were friends for 20+ years and I considered the friendship to be a lifetime one. While I was the one hurt, I wanted to move forward with our friendship, but didn’t receive the same from her. I’ve tried to reach out to her. If I see her I attempt to speak, she’ll speak but it’s very short and basically only answers my question. I think this is what is so hurtful……I was the one hurt, but wanted to mend the friendship, but yet she is the one who makes it a point to not be around me and avoids me. That is what I struggle with. I actually went through a mourning with this loss of friendship, which probably sounds so silly, but true. Anyway, I get the point. She doesn’t want to be friends any longer. As hard as that is to accept, I realize it’s just a season and I’m looking back at the good moments of our friendship.

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LLH Designs January 1, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Beautiful opening of your heart, Whitney. I’ve never been one who looks forward to a new year, but this year, I actually am! 2012 was a roller coaster that just about wore me out, but I’m getting back in line and giving this ride another go because God is up to something good…all the time. The word God keeps speaking to my heart for this new year is HOPE. And for me, it’s a quiet but very active word that challenges me to flex my faith muscles. I’m so looking forward to working with you in this new year of HOPE!

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Debra January 1, 2013 at 10:48 pm

You are beautiful, thoughtful and pure writer. “Grace, Gratitude & God” – the 3 G’s – are an essential part of life. Wishing you an abundant 2013

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Beth Hart January 3, 2013 at 3:14 pm

This is beautiful and wonderful… thank you for writing and sharing this. And thank you for being authentic!

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Marianne Mandrell January 3, 2013 at 5:35 pm

*hugs* I really needed to read this today. The “letting go” part has been the hardest for me. So much has happened this year to let go of, some things I’ve talked about and many I haven’t. But as you say, Hope does not disappoint! It never has, and it never will. I think I love you most, friend, for what you stand for. :)

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Kelly January 4, 2013 at 2:02 am

Wow. Just wow. That post was written to me. We lost our 11 year old son and his best friend in a lake accident on the fourth of July. And the struggle is part of the story. As much as I’d rather have him back or at least have known we’d only get 11 years and one day with him, I can see the Lord’s hand in everything since that day. We had 2500 people come to the joint funeral and over 10,000 watched it live online. The website crashed from people clicking on the “how to be saved button”. It is through our son’s life and tragedy that we have become who we are today. Who the Lord would have us be. As we face the six month mark tomorrow, we are reminded that God is good all the time and we need to be grateful. This is the first time I’ve read your blog and I’m so glad I did.

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Whitney January 7, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Kelly, much love and lots of hugs to you. I’m so grateful that He’s in control.

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Adriana January 5, 2013 at 6:42 am

Beautiful post. Thank you so much for making it. Those were words that I needed to hear. :)

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Haley January 11, 2013 at 7:17 pm

Whitney–
I just now am catching up on blogs and read this post & while I’ve been a fan of your day designers (and love the one I own!) this post really hit home & was something I needed to hear. Thank you for the inspiration and the honest truth. xxo

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marsha kramer January 12, 2013 at 4:03 pm

I am going through cancer for the fourth time. Breast cancer in 2004, and then diagnosed with ovarian cancer stage 3C in 2009. And yes, the struggle is just part of the story. These words are so meaningful to me, and I thank you from the purest part of my heart. Marsha

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Nicolle Spitulnik January 20, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Oh Whitney.. you are such a gem. A truly wonderful person that I call friend.
xoxo

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Natalie January 21, 2013 at 4:27 am

I’d love to order this print if it’s available.

Thanks,
n

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jina hunt January 21, 2013 at 11:27 pm

What encouraging words to pass on and live by. Encourage: to inspire others to face the challenge in the face of disaster with courage and hope. To know they are not alone and someone has their back!!

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Sonya January 21, 2013 at 11:35 pm

I was so touched by your post.. Thank You so much!

sonya
xoxo
http://seasaltandcaramelz.blogspot.com/

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Lucy January 24, 2013 at 5:43 pm

This just filled my heart. Thank you for writing this. <3

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Susan February 4, 2013 at 7:55 am

Beautiful quote.
Is it your own handwriting or do you know the font used?

Thanks

Susan

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Whitney February 5, 2013 at 5:59 am

Hi Susan! This is my handwriting! I’m glad you like it. Thank you!

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irma martinez February 23, 2013 at 7:39 pm

I am a firm believer that every individual is writing their story. How we write it determines our destiny. Whatever season in life we are every chapter we live and yes somtimes survive, is the story others are reading about us. What story is your life telling right now? What story will we leave behind? Who better to entrust the copyrights to our story, than the author and finisher of life? In a world that is stuggling i so appreciate people like you who will speak their heart with wisdom from above. Continue to tell your story. God’s blessings to you!

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Stacey March 12, 2013 at 3:52 am

Well. I sure needed to read this. Struggle was the main topic of our story in 2012, as well. Struggle and grief and hardship and depression and overwhelm can just about paralyze a girl, or so I found. But thank God for His grace and mercy that is brand new each morning. It’s enough. You are a gifted writer, Miss Whitney. Thank you for allowing God to use your heart to inspire and encourage others.

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business card templates April 9, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Aw, this was a really good post. Finding the time and actual effort to
make a very good article… but what can I say… I put things off a lot and
don’t manage to get nearly anything done.

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Tahnie May 28, 2013 at 10:58 pm

I came across this post looking for images with “struggle” in them and I cannot thank you enough for writing this! It is beautiful and so encouraging…just what I needed to read. Thank you so much!!!

xoxo.

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Charbbie June 4, 2013 at 12:53 am

Inspiring! I loved this quote so much I had it tatooed!

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Brooke Tolliver April 14, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Hi Whitney! I love this quote. Do you know what font this quote is in? Or is this your handwriting?? Very pretty! Thanks!

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